Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How the Tea Party Continues to Screw Over Mainsteam Republicans

One of the narratives coming out of the midterm elections was how Tea Party orthodoxy cost Republicans control of the Senate, through dooming mainstream Republicans a chance to win in Nevada, Colorado, and Delaware.

This emphasis on orthodoxy over power continues to bite Republicans on the state level. Take New Mexico. The speaker of the house in New Mexico is Ben Luján, a liberal from northern New Mexico. The Land of Enchantment is politically complex because of regional and racial differences. Democrats do get elected in more conservative southern New Mexico, but then tend to be centrists. In 2010, those New Mexico blue dogs combined with Senate Republicans to get a centrist Democrat elected as president pro tem. This was in the cards for this session of the House as well, with Las Cruces centrist Democrat Joseph Cervantes set to take the speaker position with Republican help.

Then the New Mexico tea partiers got involved. Outraged that Republicans might vote for a Democrat, even if it would help their cause, they forced Senate Republicans to back out of the deal. Cervantes' candidacy collapsed and Lujan was re-elected to another term as speaker.